Posts Tagged ‘‘Falling Off the Edge’’

Hindu Nationalist Persecution of Christians in India under Modi’s Government

July 4, 2019

One of the ladies at our church gave a talk on Wednesday about the growing persecution of Christians in India by Hindu extremists, aided and abetted by President Narendra Modi and his squalid Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. This is an important issue for a number of reasons, and needs to be discussed. It’s naturally important to Christians concerned with the persecution members of their faith face in many other countries, but there are other reasons why it is important. It contradicts the view being pushed by the islamophobic right, that Christians are only, or primarily persecuted by Muslims. This is being particularly promoted by the neocons and Christian Zionists, like Ted Hagee’s Christians United for Israel, who, it seems, are using it to work up support for Israel and for further western imperialist wars in the Middle East. Although the article was written for Christians, the laws criminalising Christian conversion and the mob violence they face are also part of a general persecution directed at other non-Hindu religious minorities, such as Muslims and Sikhs. Discussing the resistible rise of the BJP two decades or so ago, Private Eye’s ‘Letter from India’ described how the BJP was connected to the militant RSSS, a militant Indian nationalist organisation which was partly modeled on Mussolini’s Fascists, and which was responsible for attacks on Muslims, Sikhs and Christians.

I am also certainly not blaming all Hindus for the actions of the BJP, or trying to attack Hinduism generally. Hinduism is a religion with a bewildering number of deities and sects, and thus has an impressive reputation for pluralism and tolerance. The extremists encouraged by the BJP also target moderate, liberal or secular Hindus because of their support of Gandhi and Nehru’s vision of India as a religiously tolerant, secular nation in which people of different faiths could live together in harmony and peace. The Hindu extremists not only reject this, they also passionately and vehemently despised its founder. A week or so ago one of the columnists in the I published a piece about how shocked they were when they first met a Hindu, who hated Gandhi. The Hindu extreme right despise and vilify Gandhi because they wanted India to be a Hindu state, and believed he had done too much to appease the Muslims.

I am also very much aware that Christian has also been spread through imperialism and military force, and has persecuted non-Christians. I don’t approve of or justify this. Religious persecution is wrong, no matter which religion is doing it.

Christianity in India is very ancient. Before Europeans arrived, there was already an indigenous Indian, Syriac Christian church. The Mar Thoma Christian church of Kerala believe that Christianity was brought to India in 50 or 52 AD by the apostle Thomas, who was martyred in Chennai in 72 AD. In 883 AD Sighelm, an ambassador to Kerala from the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, visited his shrine to present thank offering from King Alfred. Another apostle, Nathanael (Bartholomew) also visited India in the first century, who brought with him a copy of Matthew’s Gospel in Hebrew. Documentary evidence suggests that Christianity had reached India by the early third century AD. By 225 there was a bishop in Baith Lapat, now Shahabad in Northern India, caring for the souls of a Christian community that had been converted by missionaries from Persia and what is now Iraq. The following century, Bishop John the Persian signed the Nicene Creed, which had been drawn up as the formal statement of the Christian faith “on behalf of (the churches) in the whole of Persia, and in the great India.”

The Indian Christian population is 65 million., and comprises about 2% of the population of India, 80% of whom are Hindus. In 2016 there were 348 incidents of persecution in India recorded by the Evangelical Fellowship of India. In 2017 this increased to 736, of which 351 were violent. Many incidents probably haven’t been recorded, and so the true number is probably higher.

The BJP has also passed a series of laws, ostensibly against forced conversion, as part of their campaign against Christianity. These forbid the use of force, fraud or allurement in conversion. I’m very much aware of the term ‘rice Christianity’, dating from the 19th century. This came from the supposed tactics of some missionaries, who promised the starving a bowl of rice if they converted. The use of such inducements to get people to convert is clearly immoral. But the laws brought in against them allow Christians to be falsely accused of these tactics. In September 2017 the Jharkhand state government passed a freedom of religion law, which punishes those guilty of using ‘coercion’ to convert Hindus with three years in prison. Anyone, who wishes to change their faith, has to obtain prior permission from a magistrate. Christians have been subjected to violence and arrest, and churches disrupted because of accusations that they are breaking these laws. But the BJP is determined to roll them out nationally. The opposition party has also moved rightward to compete with the BJP, and there is fears that this will also lead to greater intolerance of religious minorities.

The tactics used against Christians not only include social exclusion, but also assault and attacks and sabotage of church buildings and private homes. They are also subject to boycotts, and a campaign, “Ghar Wapsi” (homecoming) to force Indian Christians to renounce their faith. Two years ago, in January 2017, a 50 year-old Christian convert, Bartu Urawn, and his wife were immersed in a pond by a mob for 17 hours by a mob from their village in order to force them to recant their faith. Urawn refused, dying afterwards from his ordeal. The police, however, recorded his death as ‘natural causes’. Rural Christians are especially vulnerable, and all too often the police arrest the victims instead of the perps.

Many Christians are also Dalits, formerly the untouchables, the lowest-rung of the Hindu caste system, and are considered impure and polluting by the higher castes. There is a quota system to give them access to education and employment, but these quotas don’t apply to Christians or Muslims. They’ve also suffered attacks on their homes, churches, and water sources.

See ‘Courageous faith: India’s pressured christians’ in barnabasaid, March/April 2019, pp. 6-7.

I am also very much aware that the Christian right in several American states is trying to pass ‘freedom of religion’ laws with the same intention as the Hindu extremists in the above article: to exclude religious and secular minorities from political involvement. It hasn’t quite reached the level of the Hindu extremists as described in the above article, but the intolerance of parts of the American Christian right is similar in intensity.

The BJP is, if not Fascist, then certainly fascistic in its extreme nationalism. Indeed, a prayer used by one of the BJP’s allies or constituent organisations is included in an academic textbook on Fascism to illustrate Fascism’s mystical component. The BJP is part of the growth of religious and ethnic intolerance throughout the world. And as the book, Falling Off The Edge shows, a major cause of this tension and conflict is neoliberalism. The doctrine of absolute free trade without any form of government interference means that conditions for ordinary working people across the globe, whether in the developed West or the developing world, has got worse. And as conditions of grinding poverty have increased, so people have turned on minorities as scapegoats for their rage and desperation.

It’s what’s behind the growth of fascism in working class White communities in Britain. And I’ve no doubt it’s also behind the growth of Hindu extremism in India, all encouraged and promoted by Modi. It’s one of the classic tactics of the wealthy elite everywhere to divert opposition away from themselves by claiming that mainstream society is perfect. It’s only ethnic or religious minorities, who are behind all societies problems. Minorities like Jews, Muslims, Christians, Blacks, Asians or gays, depending on the society.

But one thing is absolutely certain: Fascism and intolerance has to be fought everywhere, along with the neoliberal economics that force people into poverty, despair and racism or religious extremism, whatever the colour or creed of the persecutors or their victims.

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Vox Political: Cameron Sneers at Corbyn and Migrants on Holocaust Memorial Day

January 27, 2016

Mike has posted this story on Vox Political about Cameron’s disgraceful lies about Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to the Calais migrants’ camp: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/01/27/liar-camerons-bunch-of-migrants-comment-attacked-by-labour/ Cameron stated that Corbyn had met with ‘a bunch of migrants’ and told them that they could all come to England.

The first thing to note about this is that, like just about everything Cameron and the Tory front bench ever utter, it’s a lie. Corbyn did indeed meet some of the migrants, but he did not say they could all come to England. He stated that those with a family connection should. This is clearly different from allowing all of them in, as Cameron well knows.

What is most shocking isn’t that Cameron lied once again, and certainly not that he has lied about migration, an issue which the Tories themselves have been shown repeatedly that they are unable to tackle, despite the boasts, promises and often aggressive rhetoric demonising asylum seekers. What is shocking and really offensive is Cameron’s sneering and offhand attitude to the migrants themselves. They’re ‘a bunch’. Like bananas. A mixed assortment, in other words. And he said this on Holocaust Memorial Day.

This is the day when Europe remembers not only the Nazi extermination of the Jews, but, by wider extension, all victims of racism and genocide. The blurb for it in the Radio Times actually says that. And many Jewish organisations make an explicit connection between commemorating and protesting against their own history of persecution, and contemporary genocides and crimes against humanity. Bernie Farber, the head of one of the major Canadian Jewish organisations, drew the ire of the Canadian right-wing Tories a few years ago during the Darfur crisis. Why? He organised an official ‘Shabbat for Darfur’, a ‘Sabbath’ of fasting and prayer against the genocide against its people then being carried out by the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militias. It annoyed the particularist right, who felt that Farber should just be concerned to commemorate the sufferings of the Jewish people, without worrying about others. And unfortunately, there are others over here who share the same opinion. Like Richard Desmond, who wrote a moving description of his own visit to Auschwitz, before going on to join UKIP, despite the fact that many of the migrants UKIP vilify and denounce are similarly fleeing from the organised extermination of their peoples in their homelands. It seems from this that Cameron has the same view.

A year or so ago Mike also put up another piece commenting on Ian Duncan Smith’s visit to Auschwitz and the hypocrisy involved there. The ‘Gentleman Ranker’ was trying to show he shared the world’s horror and outrage at the crime, while at the same time his policies, like the Nazis, attacked and degraded the sick, unemployed and disabled. In the case of denying them benefit, to the point of death. IDS seems to have regarded the trip as little more than a photo opportunity, a chance to show that he was a decent human being by going on a pilgrimage to a place of the most extreme horror. While all the time, his policies say otherwise. And Cameron, from his dismissive comments about the migrants at Calais, also apparently shares this blithe indifference, even hostility, to the victims of such holocausts today.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper protested against Cameron’s comments and his sneering lack of concern for those, who have lost everything. She is to be applauded for it. As for Cameron, he should feel ashamed, both about his lying, and the sneering racism underneath it. But I doubt that he will. Cameron is a toff, and as the American Socialist journalist Chris Hedges pointed out in a piece I reblogged last week, the upper classes are unpleasant psychopaths. They sneer at the lower classes and have the same contempt for the middle class. It is, however, disguised by clever PR work and various much-publicised philanthropy.

Cameron’s offhand remark about ‘a bunch of migrants’ also tells you everything you need to know about the Tory attitude to globalisation and the social disruption this causes. The elites love it, because it allows them to break the power of national governments to regulate the economy and protect the working and lower middle classes by exporting industry to other countries around the world, where labour is cheap and welfare provision minimal. And if the workers there prove a bit ‘bolshie’ and demand their rights, it can be moved to somewhere else. For the working peoples of the world, it’s been disastrous, as they’ve seen their working conditions deteriorate, wages stagnate and working hours increase. The process is documented in the book Falling Off the Edge, and Greg Palast’s Armed Madhouse. The result of this has been the massive disruption of many societies in the Developing World, culminating in terrorism by guerrillas and the state. The result of this has been the mass migration of millions of displaced people around the world, seeking safety or a better standard of living.

Like those in Calais.

And this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Way back c. ’95, the BBC’s long running science programme, Horizon, devoted an edition to ‘Icon Earth’. This was about the photograph of the full Earth taken from the Moon by the Apollo astronauts, and the way it had changed our perspectives. The programme made the point that there had been no photographs of the Earth as a whole before then. The result of this was that there was a change in consciousness, as the world’s populations became less concerned with their own, particular affairs on more aware of the importance of the planet and interrelatedness of the world’s peoples and their actions. It helped stimulate the nascent ecological movement, as part of this.

The programme covered the contemporary debate about globalisation, then being embraced by the Major and Bliar Conservative and Labour parties. One of the speakers on the programme was an Indian social activist, who opined that while politicians liked globalisation for the opportunities it gave for business, they did not like the mass migration it also engendered. Her words were accompanied by footage of migrants trying to get through various borders, fighting police and border guards as they did. I think she was particularly concerned at the way immigrants to the west from south Asian countries, like India, were being blocked as governments increasingly clamped down. But she also predicted that as time went on, we would also see pockets of the Third World appear in the West.

She’s right. Priti Patel and the other globalists behind the book, Britannia Unchained, wanted to see Brits similarly forced to work the long hours for few material rewards as their counterparts in the Developing World, in order to make Britain, or rather their bosses, more prosperous. And this attitude was echoed in Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems by the MP for Taunton Dean, who wrote his ‘magnificent octopus’ (apologies Baldrick) on the same subject. And the mass migration thrown up by globalisation has carried on. The victims of globalisation’s disruption of societies and economies across the globe, and Cameron and Bliar’s wars in the Middle East, are there in the Calais migrant camps. But they’re un-people, those outside the circle of bankers, industrialists and big businessmen, who are the only people who matter to Cameron. They’re of no interest to him except as a political embarrassment to Cameron, or, at best, just as an opportunity to score a point over a principled rival before his claque of right-wing morons. They are the flotsam and jetsam of the world, thrown up by globalisation.

Cameron’s attitude is disgusting, but entirely explicable in terms of his class and politics. He’s a liar, and the political and economic theories he embraces with such passion have caused misery on a global scale, but he has nothing but contempt for their victims, both within Britain and outside. The sooner he’s voted out, the better.

Drone Operators Called Children ‘Fun-Sized Terrorists’

November 23, 2015

This is disgusting on so many levels.

Earlier this evening I blogged about the Tory bloodlust applauding the killing of Mohamed ‘Jihadi John’ Emwazee, the brutal Islamist thug responsible for ‘executing’ al-Qaeda’s prisoners for the sick little propaganda videos by drone. I pointed out that, while Emwazee was a murderer and war criminal, who got pretty much exactly what he deserved, this does not mean that drone strikes are an effective weapon against terrorism. I pointed out in that article that critics of the drone programme have stated that their use tends to increase support for terrorists, like the Taliban in Pakistan. Also, drones themselves are not always accurate. The machines home in on cell phone signals, for example, so that most of their victims aren’t terrorists themselves, but may simply be their relatives or those, who happen to be there at the time. Moreover, The Young Turks reported that the programme had been criticised as an instrument of extra-judicial execution of American citizens, like the al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, by the American state. Awlaki was killed by a drone strike in the Yemen. He was an American citizen, but was effectively executed without trial.

The video below is from an American show, Democracy Now. It’s of an interview with a whistleblower, Michael Haas, who revealed the callous indifference to human life amongst the drone operators. Haas states that the operators called the children killed in drone strikes, ‘fun-sized terrorists’. They rationalised the murders by comparing them to grass. ‘You have to cut the grass before it gets too tall’ was the way the saw it. And everything was done to deny their humanity in order to make the killing of children easier.

There’s also a report on this by the atheist website, Secular Talk. They report that the drone operators also used to refer to children as TITs – Terrorists In Training. Haas himself was concerned about the way the drone operators seemed determined to kill indiscriminately, regarding everyone as a target. He was an instructor in the programme, and at one point pulled one of the men he was training off the console because he was upset at the man’s bloodlust. He told him that it wasn’t a video game, and that the people killed stayed dead.

If this is account is true, it was the action of a proper, good soldier. If you watched the programme on Sandhurst, the British military academy a year or so ago, you’ll have seen how the British army is concerned about the morality of warfare and killing. It’s part of their studies, and I’ve been told that the programme accurately reflected the course’s concern for the proper conduct of what is the brutal and horrific business of killing other human beings.

Haas was, unfortunately, not praised or commended for his moral concerns. He was instead punished. After he left the army, he states that he was hooked on ‘bath salts’ and cocaine. He also stated that for every four terrorists they killed, they created ten more.

From his evidence it appears that the use of drones is both deeply immoral, and having precisely the opposite effect of what is intended.

Now the insurgents in Iraq have used children as soldiers in combat with the occupying allied troops. There’s a horrifying description of a firefight in Iraq between the Americans and a group of insurgents in the first chapter of the book, Falling Off The Edge. During the battle, couple of insurgents took refuge in a nearby house, and threw outside a seven year old boy. Lying on the ground was an unexploded RPG round, which had been fired by one of the American troopers. The boy looked like he was planning to move towards and throw the grenade. The American soldiers told him to move away, and not pick up the round. The boy reached towards the grenade, and so was shot by the troopers.

A seven year old kid, killed because he was sent to do their job by ruthless, exploitative cowards. From the description, it doesn’t seem that the American troopers in this instance had a choice. If they had not shot the lad, he would have thrown the grenade, killing them.

The drone operators are in a different position. They aren’t personally threatened by the people they kill. They aren’t physically present, and they certainly don’t have to kill children or innocents. But about 990 per cent of the people killed in drone strikes aren’t terrorists.

Secular Talk concluded their piece by demanding that the drone programme be discontinued until the American forces clean it up. I don’t share their anti-religious views, but they’re right about that. It should come to an end now, before even more innocents are killed, and more people radicalised from it.

Islamic Literature against Militant Islamic Fundamentalism

July 6, 2014

Earlier this morning I reblogged Tom Pride’s piece exposing the Daily Mail’s latest dirty trick in stirring up trouble between Muslims and non-Muslims. A journo for the Heil had turned up on an Islamic internet forum as a Muslim, and posted comments trying to provoke them into attacking and vilifying their country and its non-Muslim peoples. They smelled a rat, however, and didn’t fall for it. Looking at the disguised poster’s account, they traced it back to the Evening Standard, which used to be part of the Mail group.

It’s a nasty, dangerous piece of deception. Apart from the increased threat of terrorism, and the danger of young Muslim men turning to militant fundamentalism as a release for their social frustrations, Muslims themselves are also very much the victims of racist and sectarian attacks. A Saudi woman studying over here was murdered last week for wearing the niqub, or full face veil in the street. If the Heil journalist had succeeded, his deception could very well have cost an innocent person their life.

It is also illegal. As I blogged in my comment to the piece, there are laws against the state using similar tactics to entrap people. Although Sir Robert Peel, the Prime Minister, who created the London police force in the 1820s abolished agents provocateurs in the 1820, the cops seem still set on using them, and then being prosecuted in turn when they’re exposed. It is also an offence in British law to stir up racial hatred, as the BNP and National Front know full well and for which they and their members have been arrested and prosecuted over the years. It’d be very interesting to see Paul Dacre standing in the dock with Nick Griffin, Andrew Brons and the other storm troopers.

I have, however, also come across over the years a number of books written in support of human rights and democracy from an Islamic perspective. I’m writing about them as a corrective to the manipulative and dangerous rubbish written and done by the Standard, the Heil and the like.

Islam and Human Rights, by Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, 4th Edition (Tilford: Islam International Publications Ltd 1989)

Islam Human Rights Book

I bought this back in the 1990s when I was studying Islam at Uni. It’s written by a very senior Pakistani judge, religious scholar and human rights politician and advocate. The blurb on the back states that the author, Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, served as the Pakistani foreign minister in 1947, led the Pakistani delegation to the UN General Assembly, where he was president at its seventeenth session. He has also been at various times a judge and president of the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

The book is an attempt to show that the UN Declaration of Human Rights is in accordance with Muslim belief, and showing how the Qu’ran and religious literature support its provisions. The book begins with the Declaration, and then proceeds with chapters on man and the universe, and social and economic values. Chapter five then goes through the Declaration of Human Rights article by article, citing Islamic texts to support them. Chapter 6 is on ‘Prevalent Attitudes towards Human Rights among Muslims’, while the last chapter, seven, is on the ‘Future Relationship between Islam and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.

‘The Muslim Search for Democracy, Pluralism and Minority Rights’

Looking through the religious section of one of the charity bookshops on Friday, I came across this book, published by the University of Florida Press. This was another book, which examined the Islamic texts used by the militant fundamentalists in their attacks on democracy and other western conceptions of liberalism and human rights. It showed that, contrary to the assertions of the militant Islamists, the texts didn’t quite say what they thought they say, and can be used instead to promote democracy, pluralism and tolerance. It’s a useful approach, and more like this is needed to combat the claims made by the militants.

Secular Factors in the Growth of Militant Islam

There are a number of reasons for the growth in militant Islam throughout the world. Some of it is the result of globalisation displacing and impoverishing peoples, tribes and social groups, who are already struggling to make ends meet in the Developing World. See, for example, Alex Perry’s Falling Off the Edge: Globalization, World Peace and Other Lies (London: Macmillan 2008). Other factors are the failure of secular politicians in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and Arab world, whether capitalist or Communist, to provide jobs, opportunities and economic development. See Bassam Tibi’s Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press 1990). Other factors are the continuous Western political intervention and imperialism in the Middle East, and its support of a series of unpopular and bloody tyrants in the region. See Said K. Aburish, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite (London: Gollancz 1991).

The Invasion of Iraq and Western Economic Imperialism

On that latter point, I’m really not surprised about the sectarian violence in Iraq. Apart from the deep tribal and sectarian divisions between its peoples, the western occupation has comprehensively wrecked the country’s economy. Western corporations scramble and lobby for the sale of the country’s state industries, which they duly purchased, they have also attempted to lock the private ownership of the nation’s oil industry in Western hands into the country’s constitution. The Neo-Cons also tried to turn it into a free trade utopia following the ideas of Von Hayek and co. They removed all the tariff restrictions against foreign imports, with a result that everyone in the world dumped their cheap goods on the nation. Unable to compete, the much of their own manufacturing industries went bankrupt and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. When you have that many people poor, hopeless and angry, you can expect it all to explode into violence.

Psychological Factors in Domestic Terrorists

As for domestic fundamentalists and Islamic terrorists, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writing in the Independent this week pointed to psychological causes within the minds of some of the young men, who get caught up in it. By and large the fundamentalist terrorists are not the poor and uneducated, but often highly educated people, often from a very westernised background, who are torn by internal conflicts about their identities as western citizens and Muslims. And lack of job opportunities is also very frequently a factor. This all needs tackling. Alibhai-Brown stated that the attempt to tackle the psychological causes of Muslim domestic terrorism and militancy was abandoned in Britain, as Blair and successive administrations sought solutions in interfaith dialogue and foreign policy. In my opinion, that’s needed too, but not to the exclusion of other, psychological approaches.

My point here is that it’s not simply a straightforward, simple case of religion alone causing violence and conflict. And the above books are here trying to make a positive improvement to the situation by showing that a reconciliation between Islam and democracy, human rights and religious and ethnic pluralism is possible.

Unlike the Evening Standard and the Mail, which just wants to stir up even more hatred to sell a few more copies of their wretched rags.